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Source Music

From Chace Audio

There are two categories of music heard on TV and film – score and source music. Score is music written specifically for the film. Source music is music that existed prior to the making of the film, for instance a pop song, rock song, marching band music, etc. This music must be licensed to be used in the film.

Typically, source music is diegetic, meaning it can heard by the characters in the film - music playing over a car radio, in a night club, or being performed on stage. Score music is typically non-diegetic, meaning that it can't be heard by the characters in the film. It's used to set a mood or evoke a feeling, and only the audience can hear it. However, there are exceptions to both these rules.

Source music creates its own unique challenges in distribution. The distributor is responsible for paying royalties on performance and publishing for this music, and the price is dependent on artists’ contracts across different territories and various media. This is why you may remember hearing that Oingo Boingo track playing on the radio of your favorite show in the 1980s, but you won’t hear it on your streaming service. The distributor may not want to pay for the rights to use the music in digitally distributed media. This is also why you rarely hear the song Happy Birthday sung live on film or TV. The licensing department still has to pay royalties to use that song.